Monday, January 18, 2010

Mixed Signals in the Terror Trials

There are a couple of conflicting stories floating about with regard to the terrorist trials.

Friday I started reading about the Obama administration's consideration of holding one of the trials in Washington D.C. - that of Riduan Isamuddin, or Hambali. Hambali was a high ranking al-Qaeda operative, supposedly the main link between al-Qaeda and a terror group responsible for a bombing in Bali in 2002 which killed more than 200 people and the 2000 attacks in Indonesia on Christmas Eve that killed 19. He was planning a second wave of attacks in America when he was captured. You can read more of his resume here or here.

Hambali is one of the high value detainees at Gitmo, along with KSM, who supposedly is going to be tried in New York City.

However, now Newsweek is reporting that KSM may not be coming to New York at all:

But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now "potentially in jeopardy," a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells NEWSWEEK. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It's not just the Republicans gumming up the works, either:

Another big factor? The price tag. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently sent a letter to the White House budget office seeking more than $216 million to provide security for the trial this year—and more than $200 million for each year after that. The figures have prompted some critics to say that, given the years a complex conspiracy case could take, the final cost could approach $1 billion.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a communications breakdown in information sharing between the administration and Congress. The Hill reports:

Ever since Obama announced plans to shutter the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in the first days of his presidency, members of Congress have complained about the lack of transparency on the backgrounds of detainees transferred overseas...

...There is no transparency when it comes to detainee transfers,” said Tom Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The public doesn’t know how the Obama administration is deciding which detainees can be transferred or which detainees are transferred until after the fact. This makes congressional notifications, and passing on those notifications in short order to members of Congress, all the more important.” Even when they receive the classified notifications from the State Department, some lawmakers complain about the quality of the information in the reports and the 15-day window for Congress to request additional information and raise concerns.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of open communication about this going on between the people that should be paying attention. That includes the American people. And it doesn't seem as if the decision makers in Washington are all on the same page.

It might be too expensive to hold a trial for KSM + 4 in New York, but we can maybe try Hambali in D.C.?

It seems as if the Obama administration is just throwing ideas out there to see what gets the least public outcry and that's the one they go with.

It doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the process.

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